What parents need to know about the disturbing 'Momo challenge'

It’s the terrifying online craze sending shivers down parents’ spines but cyber experts insist the recent ‘Momo challenge’ isn’t what it seems.

Described as the “suicide game”, it allegedly entices children to add a contact into their phones and then instructs them to complete increasingly dangerous tasks in secret with the threat of harming their families if they do not comply.

The messages are often accompanied with the image of Momo, a bug-eyed, skeletal woman with a long, thin mouth and scraggly black hair.

However, British cyberpsychologist Dr Dawn Branley-Bell believes the challenge is nothing more than a hoax, which is spreading like wildfire due to its sensationalist nature, ultimately creating unnecessary worry for parents.

The Momo challenge allegedly entices children to add a contact into their phones and then instructs them to complete increasingly dangerous tasks in secret. Source: Sunrise
The Momo challenge allegedly entices children to add a contact into their phones and then instructs them to complete increasingly dangerous tasks in secret. Source: Sunrise

What is Momo?

The picture first appeared last summer when a 12-year-old girl’s suicide in Argentina was thought to have been motivated by the so-called Momo game, but no link between the two has yet been proven.

Dr Branley-Bell believes this is “the modern equivalent of the monster under the bed”, but acknowledges that a small number of children may have been disturbed by this.

“The sculpture was originally part of an art exhibition in Tokyo and had absolutely nothing to do with any ‘challenge’ but somewhere along the line someone has started this hoax and it has spread.”

Despite this, police still want parents to be aware of its existence.

How parents should handle the Momo challenge.

Dr Branley-Bell said parents should be focused on providing younger generations with the tools they need to become resilient to online content, through education and support.

“Equipping them with the skills to identify hoaxes and encouraging them to become critical observers of what they see online, which would be much more beneficial than headlines and panic around extreme crazes or rumours,” Dr Dawn Branley-Bell said.

Experts say the Momo challenge is more hype than anything else. Source: Getty (file image)
Experts say the Momo challenge is more hype than anything else. Source: Getty (file image)

“There will no doubt be another challenge that comes along, however, it is undoubtedly likely to involve an element of fear – whether that’s through the character fronting the hoax, such as the haunting imagery associated with Momo and Slenderman, and/or a fear of the consequences.

“They will continue to appear and this is why the key to addressing these issues is to raise awareness of online hoaxes without scaremongering.”

Sunrise parenting expert Dr Michael Carr-Gregg echoed this sentiment, saying parents need to tell their children that they they should not feel scared or threatened to discuss what they have seen online.

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